It has been a busy week in the hinterlands of northern Afghanistan, where soldiers from the Nordic nations were engaged in heavy fighting. Swedish and Finnish soldiers were attacked during a routine evening patrol 40km west of Mazar-i-Sharif, where the ISAF force led by Sweden is stationed.
When the patrol began taking fire outside of Aqchah, the soldiers called for reinforcements and slugged it out with the militants. Three of the attackers were killed and two were injured, according to The Local, during the skirmish that lasted through the night and into the morning hours. One of the attackers was captured and taken for interrogation.
There are between 40 and 50 Swedish personnel stationed in Aqchah. The Swedes were driving armoured vehicles that gave them the protection needed to return fire. Once reinforcements arrived with their Combat Vehicle 90, it was all but over for the ambushers, who continued intermittent fire fights throughout the night.
Fortunately, no Nordic soldiers were injured during the fight. Swedish military spokespeople were uncertain why the Nordic unit was attacked, though it was probably connected to the upcoming Afghan elections set for the end of August. In recent weeks the number and frequency of attacks against foreign troops has sharply increased.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt admitted the situation in northern Afghanistan is neither better nor worse than before. “I visited the Swedish troops a few months ago and I know for a fact that the area has been problematic before. But the violence is likely increased leading up to the election,” he told Swedish news agency TT from Kabul, where he is due to meet President Hamid Karzai this weekend.